New Delhi, May 7: The presidential election campaign in the United States this time is being fought as much in the party primaries as on YouTube, the enormously popular Google-owned site where anyone can post a video free of cost. In the run-up to the next general elections in India, we may see a similar online video war between the Congress and the BJP.
Google announced the launch of YouTube’s India operations on Wednesday. However, it has already broached the use of YouTube with the BJP and the Congress in their campaigns for the coming general elections. "We will provide space to the parties for telecasting video campaigns. We can also create customised interactive platforms for them," says Google India managing director Shailesh Rao.
YouTube could become the quickest and cheapest mass-based electronic means of reaching out to young urban voters in this country. YouTube already has some 200,000 registered users in India; the company claims another five million occasional visitors to the site. Most of them are in the age group of 20 to 30 and located in urban centres. Two other Google sites — Orkut and Gmail — are also a huge hit with Indian youth. People in the media buying industry say YouTube can give parties access to this section of the population at virtually no cost. "There is no media buying intricacy here. No big bucks that need to be rolled out. It’s just the creativity of the political parties that will act as the distinguishing factor,” a Gurgaon-based executive with Group M says.
The parties are not committing yet on the use of YouTube. AICC secretary Rajiv Shukla says he is not aware of any formal negotiations between his party and Google. “The medium definitely excites us, particularly in the context of approaching the educated urban youth. As and when something formal comes our way, we will consider it,” says Mr Shukla. According to BJP secretary Shahnawaz Hussain, the platform will have a limited effect.
“We will use it, but at this point of time we are not very sure of the impact that it will have. We must not forget that most people who actually come out to vote live in villages and small towns,” he says. No political party has yet officially used YouTube’s free-hosting facility. But in last year’s UP Assembly elections, anonymous people suspected to be supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party uploaded anti-Samajwadi Party videos on YouTube. Google is unlikely to officially open its YouTube platform to regional parties, given that its subscriber base is mainly in urban centres.